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Data Sheet: Uber CEO, Ellen Pao Speaks, Netflix Cash, Robotics Weapon Ban

August 21, 2017, 1:49 PM UTC

The world is just full of surprises. Every day I see thinking I thought I’d never see. Here are just a few nuggets I’ve been chewing on that surprise me to a greater or lesser degree.

—I never thought I’d see the day that Chinese online payment companies built giant, consumer-friendly, nifty-featured businesses. Alibaba and Tencent settled that matter in China, as this Wall Street Journal story nicely explains. More astounding is that those two companies increasingly are taking their acts on the road. Once content to serve the giant and fast-growing China market, the two Internet titans are following their Chinese-tourist customers around the world. According to the Journal, Chinese consumers can now use Alipay in 28 countries and Tenpay in 15. And Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial covets a toe-hold in the U.S. market with its pursuit of MoneyGram.

—Just as I never thought it would be commonplace for the president of the United States to publicly taunt and tease adversaries and friends alike—undignified and juvenile behavior that would see any CEO fired and any child punished—I never thought I’d see a CEO-entrepreneur engage in open warfare with a major investor. Yet this is exactly what Travis Kalanick is doing with Benchmark Capital, the venerable Silicon Valley venture capital firm that once assumed Uber would be its investment for the ages. Fortune’s Erin Griffith rightly calls this a soap opera. We can’t avert our eyes yet can’t help but thinking everyone involved would be better off if everyone just shut up.

—I never thought a conversation about things like “morals” and “purpose” and “mission” would be so genuinely discussed by CEOs of global companies. Yet that’s exactly what’s going on right now and exactly what Fortune will be discussing at its CEO Initiative conference in New York in late September. Read Alan Murray’s comments on the topic today in his CEO Daily newsletter.

The world just gets more and more surprising.

Adam Lashinsky


Jeff Immelt: Uber CEO? The GE chairman has reportedly emerged as the front-runner to lead the controversial ride-hailing company.

Ellen Pao has a new book. The former Kleiner Perkins investor shares details of her time at the venture firm and argues that gender discrimination lawsuits are far from over.

Teens love Apple's iMessage. Why? Because they own iPhones, iMessage is already there, and third-party app support has breathed new life into the platform, argues one executive.

Netflix is still spending—a lot. The media company will spend $7 billion on content next year, up from $6 billion this year.

Can Electronic Arts cultivate a casual eSports customer base? With the National Football League. Madden NFL 18, and a new tournament, perhaps—with sponsorships, ticket sales, merchandising, and broadcast rights to follow.

Ford's Argo AI. The Pittsburgh company has $1 billion in backing from the Detroit automaker and now finds itself fighting with the competition to recruit roboticists and machine learning experts.

Parts suppliers succumb to the Amazon effect. Plumbers, electricians, and contractors feel the pressure of the retailing giant.

Elon Musk calls for a robotics weapon ban. Along with 115 other experts, Musk called for strict oversight of autonomous weapons, a.k.a. "killer robots."

Is this the new Nest thermostat? A well-known leaker of such things believes so.

Former 23andMe president joins Livongo. Andy Page, who left 23andMe earlier this year, joins a startup focused on chronic disease management.

Paul Allen makes a historic discovery. The USS Indianapolis, lost for 72 years, is found 18,000 feet below the surface of the Philippine Sea.


HTC Vive Price Cut Brings It In Line With VR Rival Oculus Rift, by David Meyer

China Relaunches World’s Fastest Train, by Natasha Bach

Intel Unveils Newest Chips To Speed Laptops, by Aaron Pressman

15 Years Later, Maine’s ‘One Laptop Per Child’ Initiative Hasn’t Helped Test Scores, by David Z. Morris

How Microsoft’s Cortana Is Becoming a Better Listener, by David Meyer

Former FBI Agent Says Russian Twitter Bots Were Behind Push for McMaster Firing, by David Z. Morris


"After years of sitting too comfortably on the sidelines, here, at an important moment in history, [technology companies] appear to be stepping up against unquestionably evil ideologies. And because companies like Google or Facebook constitute a kind of modern infrastructure for social relations and how we get media, it can, as an observer, feel good to see them help cut off oxygen to the pernicious and insidious viewpoints now so plainly and terrifyingly in view."

—Navneet Alang, writing in The Week


Should Uber pay congestion charges? Nexar CEO Eran Shir makes an interesting argument for such a thing in The Information. He believes that "surge pricing" could be applied to a multimodal transportation network, citing as an example New York City, which remains without such things despite several attempts over the last decade. Looking out the windows of Fortune HQ to the fairly empty street below—and remembering the packed subway car I rode here earlier this morning—I'm wondering if we're thinking about this all wrong.

This edition of Data Sheet was curated by Andew Nusca. Find past issues, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters.